With children seated in rows on the gym floor facing a presentation screen, it appeared to be a typical assembly at Prairie Crossing Elementary School in Parker. But beloved gym teacher Molly Wright stood in front of the children while her family members sat on the sidelines, dabbing their eyes with tissues. Her husband stood strong nearby and their 1-year-old son cruised along the floor. This assembly was about kidney disease and Wright was the focus.
When Wright went into labor with her son, she had no idea of the crisis looming. Her baby boy was born healthy. But during labor, Wright suffered a stroke and seizures, resulting in the loss of 90 percent of her kidney function.
Wright’s husband and family took the baby home, but she remained in the hospital enduring kidney dialysis three times per week. Though dialysis would work temporarily, doctors told Wright what she really needed was a new kidney. They urged her to add her name to the transplant list as soon as possible because the typical wait for a kidney is about three and a half years.
Waiting, Helping, Learning
Over the next few months, Wright navigated the challenging terrain that goes along with being a new mother, all while coping with her own health problems. “When I was first released from the hospital, I was so weak that I couldn’t walk up the stairs. I had to crawl,” Wright says. “Though I was happy to be alive, it was quite humbling.”
Fellow Prairie Crossing teacher Kim Bennett took note of the ordeal Wright was facing and quickly mobilized the Prairie Crossing community. While staff members drove Wright to doctor’s appointments and delivered home-cooked meals to her house, students organized a plan to build awareness around kidney disease and organ donation. “We weren’t sure what to do at first,” says fifth-grader Jeffrey Kramer. “But we knew we wanted to help. Mrs. Wright is really kindhearted and has done a lot for the kids at this school.”
About 80 fifth grade students who grew up with Wright as their physical education teacher delved into learning about kidneys and the human body, and created an action plan with support from the Prairie Crossing staff and teachers. Their focus was to build awareness through the “Help Find Molly a Kidney” program.
Students created fliers, bracelets and T-shirts to prompt discussions about kidney disease and organ donation. With help from the adults in their lives, the children spoke to local businesses, churches and civic organizations to spread the word that their teacher needed a kidney.
“Before this experience I didn’t know that I could do so much to help another person,” says fifth-grader Lola Nordhagen. “All of us, we learned how to be kind, how to spread awareness and we learned about ourselves as people.”
A Match Found
At the assembly, Wright teared up. “I’m just hoping for a kidney,” she said. “I want to feel strong again.” Little did she know at that time that the campaign had worked.
A friend of Wright’s mom heard of her plight and contacted Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center. After a series of screenings and tests, the family received the much-prayed-for news that the friend was a match and could donate one of her kidneys. Wright got the brief but joyous phone call from the hospital the day after the assembly. “I was in disbelief and shock,” Wright says. “There were many tears that night.”
At Prairie Crossing, teachers gathered the fifth-graders, who whooped and cheered when Wright told them the good news. The students reflected on what they had been through as well, what they learned and how their actions motivated others to take action. “The work of these 10- and 11-year-olds, it’s nothing I could have imagined,” Wright says. “I am blown away.”
Wright received her new kidney on June 20. Both she and her donor are recovering from a surgery that her doctor says couldn’t have gone any better. Her new kidney is working well.
Be An Organ Donor
Many people who need transplants of organs and tissues cannot get them because of a shortage of donations. Of the 123,000 Americans currently on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant, more than 101,000 need a kidney, but only 17,000 people receive one each year. Every day 12 people die waiting for a kidney. Organ and tissue donation helps others by giving them a second chance at life. Call 855-NFK-CARES. —National Kidney Foundation
Facts About Living Kidney Donation
- There are many benefits to making the decision to donate a kidney like the woman in this story.
- The long-term survival of recipients is much longer if they receive a living donor kidney rather than remain on dialysis.
- Kidneys from living donors last significantly longer than those from deceased donors.
- The wait time for a transplant is shorter, and may even be done prior to the recipient needing dialysis.
- It decreases the wait time on the deceased donor wait list for others.
- The surgery can be timed for optimal health and convenience of both the recipient and the donor.
- Living donor kidneys usually start functioning more quickly than deceased donor kidneys.
- Donation often results in emotional wellbeing of donor, knowing that they have improved the health of the recipient.